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Red Sox minor league roundup: Cavalry coming in Pawtucket bullpen, and Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks are really good

04.25.12 at 10:39 am ET
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A long-anticipated move was made on Tuesday, with right-hander Alex Wilson getting moved into the bullpen in Triple-A Pawtucket, a concession to major league need and the fact that Wilson is viewed as a pitcher who can make an impact for the Red Sox in the near term. Wilson joined Rich Hill and Mark Melancon on the mound in Pawtucket on Tuesday, a trio of pitchers who could significantly change the composition of the Red Sox bullpen in the near future.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-3 WIN VS. SCRANTON WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES)

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— Right-hander Alex Wilson made his first pro appearance as a reliever, tossing one inning and allowing a run on two hits while striking out a batter. Wilson has high-octane stuff — a mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider — that have long suggested the makings of a late-innings reliever. While the Sox wanted him to develop as a starter, a capacity in which he made some strides in developing a changeup, his two above-average pitches profile more obviously for the bullpen.

The 25-year-old was a starter and reliever while in college. Even so, the Sox want to expose him to a wide variety of circumstances — single-inning outings, multiple-inning appearances as well as situations with inherited runners.

Tim Britton of the Providence Journal gets perspective on the shift from Wilson as well as Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett, Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler and PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur.

— Left-hander Rich Hill made his second relief appearance with Pawtucket, tossing a shutout inning while allowing a walk and a hit and striking out a batter. It marked the first outing of Hill’s rehab assignment in which he has not struck out multiple batters.

Mark Melancon had his strongest performance to date in Pawtucket, working around a two-out double to get three swinging strikeouts. He has yet to give up a run in his three minor league appearances.

— Third baseman Will Middlebrooks had a pair of firsts for the year. He went 1-for-2 with his first triple of the year, and he walked twice, marking the first time since last July 4 (when he was still with Double-A Portland) that he accepted a pair of free passes in a game. Opposing teams are approaching Middlebrooks with increasing caution, as reflected by his four walks in his last three games. In his last 10 games, he has seven walks and just three strikeouts; on the season, he has the same walks total and 10 punchouts while claiming a .430 OBP.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 7-6 WALKOFF LOSS TO NEW BRITAIN (GIANTS)

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Oscar Tejeda went 3-for-4 with a double and his first homer of the season for Portland. The homer came against a lefty, and four of his five extra-base hits this year have come against southpaws, against whom he is slugging .545.

Jeremy Hazelbaker went 2-for-3 with a pair of walks, and he now has an eight-game hitting streak during which he is 10-for-31.

Bryce Brentz went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, dropping back down below the Mendoza Line to .195 with a .244 OBP, .273 slugging mark and .517 OPS. That said, struggle is not unexpected for the 23-year-old, who spent just half a season last year at High-A Salem.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 4-3 LOSS TO WILMINGTON (ROYALS)

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Xander Bogaerts went 2-for-5 with a double (to right field), and also nearly drove a ball out to right field on a game-ending flyout. On the year, the 19-year-old — playing against what is mostly much older competition — is hitting .295/.368/.492/.859.

While he is not homering with the same frequency that he did in the South Atlantic League last year (where he hit 16 homers in 72 games), that comes as little surprise given that the Carolina League is a far less favorable hitting environment. More significant is the fact that Bogaerts is getting plenty of extra-base hits (9 in 16 games, including one homer), and the fact that his OBP has gone up from .324 last year with Greenville to .368 in Salem against more advanced pitchers who can typically throw multiple pitches for strikes.

Michael Almanzar continued his intriguing early-season performance. The 21-year-old, who has largely fallen off the prospect map, went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk on Tuesday, and is now hitting .318/.348/.477/.825. The walk was just his first of the season. However, he has cut down on his strikeouts in the early-going this year, whiffing eight times in 45 plate appearances.

— Right-hander Pete Ruiz, who is repeating at Salem, toss four innings of two-hit, one-run relief in which he struck out six. The run was the first allowed this year by Ruiz, who has 11 punchouts in 10 1/3 innings and a 0.87 ERA in four relief appearances.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-2 LOSS TO DELMARVA (ORIOLES)

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Matt Barnes, the Red Sox’ 2011 first-round selection, has now started his career by throwing 21 shutout innings with 34 strikeouts. For the third time, he struck out nine batters in a game, with seven of those punchouts being of the swinging variety. He allowed three hits (one double) and walked two.

— The Drive could do nothing against Shorebirds right-hander Dylan Bundy, one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. Bundy retired all 12 Drive batters he faced, and has now commenced his professional career with 13 hitless innings.

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